Torture & Drones, Brennan’s Record has only Gotten Worse!

February 13th, 2013

(RepresentativePress) – John Brennan is responsible for the biggest atrocities of two different presidential administrations.  He was considered for the same position — CIA Director — in 2009, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration following uproar over his support of the use of torture after 9/11.  The fact that there’s significantly less controversy surrounding Brennan’s nomination this time around suggests that the public — and Congress — have been quick to forget the atrocities that have occurred over the past decade.  If anything, Brennan’s record has only gotten worse over the past few years.

To begin with, the passage of four years since Brennan was first considered to head the CIA does not change the fact that he played an extremely troubling role in the Bush administration’s torture policies.

Brennan served as the CIA’s Deputy Executive Director from 2001 until 2003.  Many of his colleagues say — and email traffic shows — he was well aware of the torture techniques used by the agency at that time.

If we have truly accounted for our past, then at the very least, an individual who either approved of the torture — or even tacitly condoned the torture — is certainly not someone that we should allow to now lead the agency.  Meanwhile, my whistleblower client, John Kiriakou, is the only CIA officer to go to jail in connection with the torture program, and he’s the one who blew the whistle on it.  In fact, if he had actually tortured people, I’m confidant he would not be going to jail.

Brennan’s participation in illegal intelligence activities has only worsened since his consideration in 2009.  The latest wave of criticism surrounds Brennan’s involvement in the drone program, in which individuals suspected of terrorism — including US citizens, and entirely innocent US citizens, are targeted and killed abroad without any legal process whatsoever.

As President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Brennan has been called the architect of the drone program and the one who recommends targets to the President.  Brennan has publicly defended the drone attacks and made misleading statements regarding the number of individuals and civilians killed.  Americans are still largely in the dark in terms of how decisions are made regarding the drone program are and who is involved.  Even members of Congress have been stonewalled from learning the President’s justifications for his targeted killings.  Someone so deeply involved in a program that condones the extrajudicial, extralegal killing of anybody is not someone we should allow to lead the CIA.

The bottom line is that Brennan’s career has been inextricably intertwined with President Obama’s kill list and the Bush administration’s torture and extraordinary rendition policies.  From the beginning of his first term, President Obama said his goal is to look forward and not backward.  But to allow Brennan to lead the CIA is clearly a huge step backward and sends the wrong message to both Americans and to our friends abroad.  Brennan’s nomination says that we have already forgotten our recent past.  It says that we have no remorse for what has transpired and the illegal actions we have taken.  And it underscores the fact that we have promoted a culture of impunity and, rather than prosecuting or punishing the architects of US war crimes, we have instead rewarded them with even greater amounts of power.

The unfortunate reality is that the United States will likely face terrorist threats in the foreseeable future.  These threats will continue to challenge our morality and lead some to believe the government is entitled — in the name of national security — to infringe upon human rights and act outside the rule of law.

The individual chosen to lead the CIA should be able to promise us that, regardless of how serious the threat of terrorism is in the future, we will not allow fear to shirk our commitment to human rights or our responsibility to act within the confines of US and international law.  The next CIA director should be able not only to acknowledge our past mistakes, but to also confidently say that he or she would have refused to sit idly by as such atrocities occurred.  And the individual chosen to lead the CIA should be able to declare with certainty that such illegalities would never have happened under his or her leadership.  John Brennan is no such individual.  The man who abrogated to himself the ability to play prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of anyone on the planet should not now be in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency.
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